Japanese Flowering Apricot for Winter Fragrance

Walking on a sunny, January day with my husband and greyhound, we happened upon this beautiful Japanese flowering apricot, Prunus mume.

These fast-growing small trees can reach a height and width of 15-25 feet.

Depending upon the variety and zone, the tree may begin blooming as early as December or as late as March.

Suitable for zones 6-9, there are over 300 cultivars from which to choose, ranging in color from white to soft pink to a deeper pink or red. The flowers may be either single or double and bloom for several weeks. The incredible fragrance will draw you closer to the tree, so plant one by your house or walkway for enjoyment. The summer foliage is dark green and the tree has a nice, rounded shape.

Japanese flowering apricot is deciduous and grows well in moist (not wet) soil and full sun locations.

On the downside, this tree may be short-lived. However, they are fast-growing and are often available as five foot potted trees for around $30. Since I have not tried this tree in my own garden, I cannot say whether or not the tree is deer resistant or resistant to Japanese Beetles.

The cultivar 'Peggy Clarke' is very popular here in zone 7 and can be found growing in flower gardens (especially attractive in Japanese gardens) and landscapes. Other cultivars include 'Kobai' that is pink-red and 'Fragrant Snow' for large, white flowers. Prunus mume 'Josephine' is supposed to be a hardy variety and produces soft pink blooms in February.

The popularity of Japanese flowering apricot is due, in large part, to the efforts of the late Dr. JC Raulston, who introduced this tree to our area. Combined with evergreens, Prunus mume is a wonderful, fragrant addition to a winter garden.

Story and photo by Freda Cameron

Twelve Blooming Months

On a recent winter day, the fragrance from my winter daphne carried all the way around the house. There are a few other plants that bloom in winter in my region.

If I want twelve months of bloom in my zone 7 garden, what should I plant?

For the cold of winter, flowering shrubs, trees and early bulbs can bloom with a little planning. Here are just a few of the local examples:

Winter Daphne
Winter Jasmine
Camellia japonica
Prunus mume

Iris danfordiae
early daffodils

Flowering cherry trees
some hazels
early daffodils
Iris reticulata
Saucer magnolia

In April and May, the spring bloom season kicks into color with azaleas, dogwoods and redbuds. Early flowering perennials and more bulbs add to the show. By June, the summer plants begin to bud up and start blooming.

Spanish Lavender
Dutch iris

Japanese iris
Siberian iris
Hardy geranium
Ice plant

Southern magnolia
Verbena bonariensis

In the heat of the summer, the July flowers put on a really big show in my garden. The list of summer flowers is very long, especially for annuals and perennials.

Many of the plants that begin blooming in July and August are still blooming, perhaps on a second round, in September. With September, the ornamental grasses (muhlenbergia, pampas and miscanthus) begin to plume with interesting colors or form.

The fragrant, tender perennials, ginger and colocasia, bloom in my garden beginning in September and into October.

Crape Myrtle

Hardy ageratum

Salvia greggii
Spider lilies

I've found October to be a very colorful month, especially with the wildflowers in the area. Within my garden, the salvia greggii and helianthus are the best performers.

The Knock Out™ Roses and Encore™ Azaleas start up another show in October that lasts through a few frosts into November.

Camellia sasanqua blooms embellish the October and November gardens in the area. Also in the area, many gardens include the camellia japonica that begins blooming in December. In my garden, the winter daphne sets buds. Depending upon the temperatures, it can bloom as early as late December and continue until February.

Verbena bonariensis
Salvia greggii
Salvia guaranitica

Knock Out™ Roses
Camellia sasanqua
Osmanthus fragrans
Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet)

Camellia japonica
Witch Hazel

When we don't have flowers in bloom, there are evergreens, berries and interesting tree forms. Right now, my Japanese Maple and the Crape Myrtles provide interesting shapes and bark for the winter season.

While there are many plants missing from my list (especially April through October), it does brighten the gardening outlook when I think of the blooming possibilities for all twelve months of the year. It will just take additional planning to increase the number of winter flowers so that my garden is never off-season. A rather pleasant task to ponder on a winter day!

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Driven By North Carolina Barbecue

Many North Carolinians love to debate the best barbecue. We have a great barbecue restaurant, Allen and Son Barbecue, right here in Chatham County. In fact, it's only a ten minute drive down the road from our house. On a pretty winter day, we wanted to take a nice, long drive through the countryside.

We drove three hours roundtrip from Chapel Hill to Lexington to eat... what else? Lexington barbecue!

The Monk family has been running the Lexington Barbecue for as long as most folks can remember.

If you drive old Interstate 85 to Lexington and can't find that big "Lexington Barbecue" sign by the highway, just stop and ask someone for directions to "Honey Monk's Barbecue" (as all the locals call it). There are many barbecue places in the area, so make sure you ask for Honey Monk's.

Knowing the popularity of Honey Monk's, we arrived late for lunch at 2:00 pm on a Monday afternoon, only to find the parking lot overflowing. The smoke billowing outside was the indicator that there would be no shortage of this North Carolina specialty, no matter how large the crowd of diners.

The line for inside seating was long, but the wait was short and we were seated in no time at all. During our brief wait, we had a few friendly conversations with other loyal customers in the line. Folks like to know where you're from and just how far you've driven for barbecue.

Everyone working at Honey Monk's wears a smile as they run back and forth between taking orders and bringing out the food. The restaurant is as efficient as can be imagined.

Immediately, we were asked about our beverage preference... sweet tea, of course. That's iced tea, southern style. The friendly wait staff came around to top off our glasses as often as necessary.

Experienced barbecue connoisseurs (like us) don't even look at the menu. We just have to decide between chopped or sliced pork.

Both my husband and I went with the sliced pork platter. It includes French fries, coleslaw (slaw) and your choice of bread. The bread of choice for me is always hushpuppies.

If you're not from the South, you probably don't know about hushpuppies. These are nice, lightly crisp, deep-fried, dropped in the oil by spoonful, delicious cornmeal batter delicacies. Just look at the upper right side of my photo of the food. That's a nice batch of hushpuppies in the little container beside the plate.

I love the slaw, too. This slaw is made with vinegar, not mayonnaise. The tangy taste is a great side dish for pork barbecue.

The French fries are crinkle cut and perfectly crisp, piled high on top of the sliced pork. There's plenty of pork hiding under there!

As with many barbecue places, the secret is often in the sauce. A half-cup portion of sauce is served alongside the plates. Served warm, it won't cool off the piping hot barbecue. A brand name hot sauce is also on the table, but the homemade barbecue sauce is really great. Don't worry; it isn't spicy like the hot sauce.

Although I couldn't finish the generous portions on my platter, I still wanted Honey Monk's famous peach cobbler. My husband ordered it with ice cream, but I prefer the cobbler served without any distractions.

When the bill arrived, it was around $20 for the two of us. We left a tip on the table for the wonderful staff and paid the bill up at the register on our way out.

Given the distance we'd traveled, we debated whether to buy a pound of barbecue to take home. We even had our cooler out in the truck, just in case. We concluded that this was probably our last meal of the day. We decided to pass on the carryout this time... we don't mind the roundtrip drive for a return visit to Lexington Barbecue.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron. Calories not included.

Monarch Butterfly Migration Documentary

Gather your friends and family to learn about the miraculous migration of the Monarch butterflies. The yearly migration can cover up to 2,000 miles and take two months.

The PBS show, NOVA, will air a special presentation on Tuesday, January 27th.

The Incredible Journey of the Monarch Butterflies is a documentary by director Nick de Pencier.

The film follows the epic migration of the Monarchs from Canada and the United States to Mexico. Monarch experts share their research findings from studying these fascinating butterflies.

In my garden, a Certified Monarch Waystation, I grow host plants as a food source for the Monarch caterpillars. Throughout my gardens, I also grow nectar plants for the butterflies.

I'd love to add a chrysalis house, like the one in the butterfly garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) in Raleigh. However, a simple setup with everyday materials, such as clean glass jars with ventilated lids, can be used for rearing Monarch larvae.

Many gardeners look for the eggs on the host plant, milkweed. They protect the larvae by placing the milkweed leaves and eggs in a chrysalis house. This helps to ensure that the caterpillars hatch, a chrysalis forms and the butterflies emerge unharmed.

The raising, feeding and releasing of butterflies gives you the chance to gently hold them before they fly away on their own.

Kylee, at Our Little Acre, also has a post about this documentary.

If you'd like to certify your garden as a Monarch Waystation or learn more about rearing the butterflies, please refer to the information at Monarch Watch.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron. Refer to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show schedule for your area. NOVA airs at 8:00pm in the UNC-TV viewing area.

No Running: Clumping Bamboo

I put my faith in the plant description and brought three Fargesia home from a plant nursery in spring 2007. I was on a mission to find deer-proof evergreens that would provide a bit of privacy screening while adding a nice leaf texture. The clumping bamboo has met all of my needs.

Fortunately, clumping bamboo is a well-mannered bamboo. There are no runners. The three plants have remained tightly clumped, with increase in size (width and height) that is similar to a miscanthus sinensis 'Cosmopolitan' (ornamental grass).

Fargesia is a cold hardy bamboo, suitable for zones 5-8a and full sun. Although the tags on my plants didn't have a name beyond "Fargesia" I believe that these are probably Fargesia rufa. The clump grows quickly into a fountain shape around 6 feet high. The broad base and fountain do require a bit of space, although I am growing perennials underneath the fountain shape.

The recent snow, as well as a few mornings of 8°F low temperatures, did not seem to have any adverse effects on the bamboo.

One bamboo is planted beside our bird feeder. The birds seem to delight in perching on the bouncing branches while they queue up for a turn at the bird feeder!

There is one other advantage to growing Fargesia rufa-- you can feed this bamboo to your pandas!

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Since I Missed the Boat, I'll Have to Swim...

... to the desert island with my three plants!

A few days ago Shirls Gardenwatch threw out this challenge to garden bloggers:

If stranded on a desert island…what three plants would you take? Given the criteria ‘no limits to growing conditions whatsoever’ and with the assumption that food was on the island this completely opens up the game.

Since this "desert island" has no growing limitations, then my imagination is my only constraint.

I'm going to add to the assumption that there are no hungry deer or bunnies in the plant utopia! And, in a perfect garden, there are no Japanese Beetles, please!

Leaving the destructive critters behind, I'll bring fragrant roses, tall hollyhocks and nasturtium seeds. I want to grow a little cottage garden by my little grass shack. Since I have only a rose or two here, I have no photos of my other dream plants!

For all else, I assume bartering will be fun. Since other gardeners are bringing willow trees, I'll trade roses for branches to weave a little willow fence. I'll trade nasturtiums for rosemary for cooking. I'm sure we can trade all sorts of other floral bouquets, too. Maybe one of you will even let me sit under your shade tree for an afternoon.

See you on the island!

Garden Inspiration: Color Rejects Get Recognition

This Garden Inspiration was written by Brenda, a gardener in Zone 5, western New York.

What am I going to do with them? Color rejects. You know what I mean.

Schoolbus yellow and glaring orange blooms that simply don't fit in.

They are all fine plants in their own way, but they don't play well with others, at least not most of those residing in my flower beds.

They demand the spotlight and overwhelm the pastels. Their bold flirting with dark purple delphiniums usurps the soft lilacs and pinks that had previously enjoyed her company. They never complement the soft colors. A red hot poker plant just smoulders in a bed of soft, romantic pinks.

What to do with them? You see, I'm a compulsive plant collector and my plants often have a history. My husband was quite pleased when he surprised me with those Stella d'Oro daylilies, and great Aunt Ada gave me some of her "construction cone orange" poppies.

I actually grabbed several large clumps of black-eyed susans from my first garden club plant swap when I was a newbie; they have since expanded to about 8 acres it seems. I might even have bought those gaillardias because they were on clearance.

What to do then? The only thing I could do - make a new bed! I gathered together all the misfits and put them together with their own kind.

It's true that at first it seemed as if they were banished, banished to a bed far, far away by the barn. But my conscience was salved that at least I was keeping Aunt Susie's tiger lilies alive, and besides, those oranges and yellows act like beacons in the distance.

Then a funny thing happpened. When I put all those garish colors together they started to party!

As the temperatures started climbing, those fire colors disco danced in the summer heat, refusing to be daunted by the harsh sun and laughing at the humidity. Heat was their element and they bloomed most loudly in July, August, and September.

It turns out that orange and "gold" (such a nice euphemism for schoolbus yellow) go together-- well, like that eccentric couple you know who are both quite extreme in a different way and whenever you see them you say, "They deserve each other", and you don't necessarily mean it in a kind way. They suit each other. Still, just to keep things energized, next year I'm think of adding touches of hot pink. (ha!)

Now I not only have a vibrant "hot" garden for the heat of summer, but tranquility has once again returned to the purple and pink beds after those obnoxiously loud neighbors moved out.

Brenda is better known as "Gottagarden" on garden forums and has been featured in previous Garden Inspiration stories.

Brenda's story is a fun follow-up to the DYH Garden stories Give Orange Flowers a Chance and Garden Flowers: The Magenta Zone.

Snow Scenes

Here are a few garden scenes from yesterday's snow. The snow is hanging on here today, but it is starting to melt. The roads continue to be hazardous in the icy, shaded areas.

Tomorrow's blog will feature a Garden Inspiration from a New York gardener.

Snow, Southern Style

Around here, schools are cancelled just on the forecast of snow! This puts a lot of pressure on our favorite meteorologist at a local TV station.

The forecast makes for great retail sales if you own a grocery store. Everyone rushes out and stocks up on bread and milk. The shelves are emptied within a few hours of the forecast. We need to have enough supplies in case we're holed up at home for a few hours.

Some of us still rent movies the old-fashioned way. We find that the selection is pretty limited if we wait until the evening news is finished.

If the opening line on the broadcast includes the words "snow forecast for tomorrow" then the traffic jams begin as people rush out to gather supplies. After all, schools and work will be closed for at least one day.

Today's forecast was accurate. The snow is falling with several inches already on the ground. All the schools and some businesses are closed. It is quiet.

This is a day that the earth stands still.

We know that our Northern friends suffer for weeks and months through snow. They know how to go on with their daily lives. Down here, we turn a snow day into a holiday!

How do we manage to make a holiday out of a snow day?

For decades, our families and friends have pretended to not know how to drive in the snow. This makes it dangerous to be on the roads. We go too fast, we slam on brakes, the cars slide into the ditches and into each other.

The highway patrol advises that "conditions are dangerous" for driving, so we're told to stay home and off the roads.

Pollution is reduced this day, so our snow stays white and clean until everyone is ordered back to school and work. We can walk down our roads and the only tracks will be from footsteps.

Find a good hill and you can still sled. We have time to go outside and play in the snow-- to build a snowman, have snowball fights and be joyful!

The pristine view out my window is new, clean and fresh. Yesterday is hidden under a blanket of white snow.

This is no ordinary snow day. On this snowy day, all the school children can watch an historic presidential inauguration. They will remember this snow day for the rest of their lives.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

What is a Truffle?

This truffle is not chocolate!

I was ready to write about gardening this morning. However, I was literally so distracted by a story from another garden blogger that I have totally lost my train of thought!

The distraction is the Black Perigord Truffle. This is a culinary delicacy so exquisite and prized that chefs here in the states lock these up in strong boxes or safes in their kitchens. In our dining experience, the chef (or other trusted person), brings a truffle to the table and shaves off thin slices to top the dish.

Rob, at Our French Garden, has wonderful photos and information about the French truffle from his visit to nearby Sarlat for the truffle festival.

Like Rob, I cannot explain the taste of truffles to anyone. All that I can tell you is that after one taste several years ago, I have craved truffles ever since.

My husband and I once went looking for a truffle to purchase locally here in the Chapel Hill area. We found only one, small white truffle priced at $300, and it wasn't fresh. These are so delicate and difficult to import to the states. One truffle goes a long way, but we didn't buy the truffle.

It takes just a little truffle shaving to provide the flavor. I compromise by buying imported truffle-infused oil in a tiny bottle for $30. I drizzle a small amount on top of risotto or pasta as it is served.

As a gardener and a truffle fan, I also researched the idea of growing truffles here in the USA. It turns out that there are truffle farms here in North Carolina. I wrote to Garland Truffles that is located nearby. To grow truffles, one must have the right trees inoculated with the truffle fungus, mycorrhiza. Here in North Carolina, that is the filbert (European or Turkish) and certain oak (Holly-Leaved, Downy or English) trees.

Whenever we travel in Europe, we look for truffle-accented dishes on the menu. In France, the Black Perigord truffe comes from the area around Sarlat in the Dordogne region (Rob's home). In Italy, the White Alba tartufo comes from Langhe area of the Piedmont.

Another gardening, travel, blogging friend, Diana at Creative Structures lives in the Piedmont (Piemonte) region of Italy. After reading Rob's post, I had to leave Diana a question about the white truffle season in the Piedmont. I would gladly volunteer to be a judge in a contest to compare the French and Italian truffles!

It makes me want to fly to the South of France to put myself in the middle of the two truffle regions for the season. Unfortunately, we can't go right now.

However, we have a friend, Lee Spears, will be visiting both France and Italy soon. I've suggested that he look for truffe on the menu in France and tartufo on the menu in Italy.

Lee is a luthier of hammered dulcimers here in North Carolina. Lee is a musician and sound engineer, too. If that's not enough, Lee also makes fabulous desserts! I tried to explain truffles, the fungi, to Lee recently. I hope that he and Sue will have an opportunity to sample these truffles on their vacation.

Bon appetit! Bon appetito!

Story by Freda Cameron

The Moods of Mother Nature

With frigid, dangerous weather all over North America and Europe, you'd think Mother Nature is in a bad mood. The temperature here this morning at 9:00am, with the sun shining, was only 11°F on the west side of our house. On the south side, it was 40°F, thanks to the design of our house.

I'm not complaining, because Garden4Joy, a garden blogger in Ontario reports -27° without the wind chill! She points out the dangers of "black ice" and why we mortals need to respect the mood swings of Mother Nature.

If we were as old as Mother Nature, we'd be forgiven our occasional bad moods. There are so many wonderful, beautiful examples of her good moods by all the wildflowers and the reseeding plants in our gardens.

When Mother Nature distributes the seeds of reseeding annuals and perennials, the results can sometimes be rather rewarding. Perhaps Mother Nature is working on a beautiful surprise for gardeners that will be revealed this spring and summer.

The micro-climate space in the cottage garden seems to be a favorite place for reseeding. This may be because it's a zone warmer than the rest of my gardens due to the passive solar design of our house.

One favorite combination is from two commoners-- a yellow Stella d'Oro daylily and a purple Wave® petunia.

I planted the daylily where it resides. I had planted petunias once in a different spot and they have come back in a few interesting places. I'm rather fond of the deep yellow and deep purple combination that Mother Nature designed.

On the other side of the path from the daylily-petunia combo is another combination that was designed by Mother Nature. Again, the purple Wave® petunia reseeded. The petunia grows in front of a grouping of 'Purple Palace' heuchera that look a bit amber due to the sunlight in my photo. Mother Nature also distributed phlox 'Robert Poore' behind the heuchera.

This is interesting since that phlox isn't supposed to reseed. That said, I like the combination and have started moving sprouts of 'Robert' to this grouping since I like the look. The standard form Encore® Azaleas are behind the grouping while creeping jenny is the gold ground cover.

Is it just coincidental that the volunteers in my garden tend to be purple?

Another volunteer in my garden is purple verbena bonariensis. The verbena has many nicknames such as "verbena on a stick" or "skinny verbena" or just "tall verbena." There's always room for this skinny little plant. It is an annual in most zones and is marginal in my zone.

Right now, verbena foliage is still green and lush in my garden as it laughs off the winter. I hope it will still be smiling after the 9°F low predicted for tonight. I'm not going to worry about it, because I intentionally helped Mother Nature a bit with the reseeding of verbena this fall. If all goes well, the tall purple verbena seedlings will emerge in spring and I can transplant them for mass accents throughout the sunny outer gardens.

Mother Nature will soon cycle back to a warmer disposition. The Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, will be March 20, 2009.

I created a "Countdown to Spring" widget for you to add to your blog or website, if you wish. Just pick up the widget from the left sidebar of my blog.

Happy Gardening!

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Months of Iris Blooms

While I'm not a collector nor an expert of iris, I can't imagine my garden without them. To me, an iris bloom is perfection. If I were an artist, I would paint irises.

There are over 300 species of the genus iris worldwide. Given this broad array of choices we are treated to numerous fine examples of pristine beauties.

With some planning and advance planting, a gardener can be rewarded with iris blooms over several months.

One of the first irises to bloom is the tiny Iris reticulata, a great companion to crocus for zones 5-9. Two other small iris, cycloglossa and danfordiae, for zones 5-9, bloom in May-June.

I haven't yet planted these tiny (4-5 inch high) irises in my garden, but they are certainly interesting for anyone who loves irises.

In my garden, I start off the bloom season with the Dutch iris. The label information says that these irises bloom in May-June. In my full sun garden in zone 7, my photographs are dated mid-April. The height is 18-22 inches (in bloom) and the Dutch iris bulbs are rated for zones 5-8.

The foliage of the Dutch iris is thin, almost like a wild onion. However, it's fairly easy to conceal if planted behind perennials or shrubs that emerge a bit later. I find that the blooms of my Dutch irises last for about 3 weeks. The deer and rabbits have not bothered these irises.

Given the great attributes of Dutch irises, I decided to add more to my garden. In October, I added 50 each of 'Telestar' and 'Rosario' to provide lavender and rose colors. The foliage has already emerged, giving me the assurance that all of the bulbs were good.

In early May, my iris pseudacorus (yellow flag) begin blooming. I had experience growing these at a previous home where I literally planted them in the natural creek bank in filtered light.

The yellow flag irises multiply rapidly in wet soil. With a few low, moist locations in my current garden, I decided to introduce them here as well. These irises can reach heights of 4-6 feet and have been reported to grow in zones 4-9.

The iris in the photo is planted in a low spot that is slow to drain, while the companion, a purple smoke bush, is planted in a drier spot. Companions in the other areas include bog sage, monarda and Japanese and Siberian irises.

If you decide on the yellow flag irises, give them a lot of space, especially in wet locations. They divide quite easily so you can passalong these irises to your friends. I've not had a problem with the deer eating the blooms in May, but by late August, they were trying out the foliage. Since I cut back the foliage in late fall, I am not too concerned with the deer browsing.

Beginning in late May and first of June (in my garden), my Siberian and Japanese irises begin blooming. These dot the low areas of the garden along the path in the rain garden as well as along the dry stream.

Iris siberica or Siberian irises can handle a variety of growing conditions and are rated for zones 3-8, reaching heights of 2-3 feet. My favorite is 'Butter and Sugar' for the delicate yellow and white. The shorter foliage of this iris works well in front of my taller Japanese irises (there are taller Siberian irises, too). The foliage stays green all summer so I don't worry about hiding it and let these reside at the front of the bed. The blooms of the Siberian are beautiful to behold and are deer resistant.

Among my iris ensata or Japanese iris varieties, I have purple, lavender and the snow white 'Mount Fujiyama.' Mount Fuji is a gorgeous white with a hint of pale yellow on the falls. Japanese iris are very different from the Siberian (or bearded). These are large, flat and frilly. Mine are between 2-3 feet in height at this point. They like moist, acidic soil in zones 4-9. I grow mine in full sun. The deer will occasionally pick the open blooms, but leave the buds and foliage alone.

The last iris to bloom in my garden is iris pallida variegata. The variegated foliage adds interest from spring until winter and is suitable for zones 4-7. The purple blooms make a showing in June. In moist conditions, this iris will multiply and grow quite tall, to around three feet high. Out in my rain garden, where the water is based upon rainfall, it has stayed short. This iris is growing alongside yellow flag iris, hardy ageratum and bog sage.

Of course, there are many more irises to grow. I still have bearded irises on my "wish list" as I continue to develop my gardens. My only delay has been in deciding upon the colors to plant!

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

How Many Gardeners Does it Take to Find a Bulb?

Am I the only gardener who forgets where fall-planted bulbs are located in the garden?

For the last three years, I didn't mark my fall-planted bulbs. I will even confess to having accidentally dug up daffodils and hyacinths because I forgot where they were planted. Since I promptly lost track of the bulbs AGAIN, I can't even tell you whether or not my negligence resulted in any permanent damage.

An interesting thing happened this fall when I was rearranging one particular section of the cottage garden.

I had planted a group of Dutch irises there in the fall of 2005. In the spring of 2008, I noted that the irises needed dividing. Then, I forgot the exact location.

After pulling out a small tree and three shrubs and all the perennials in this one area, it seems that I divided those irises after all! In all the replanting, the bulbs were raked around in the new soil amendments and now are nicely spaced in three clumps around the garden bed. The sprouts are already showing even though the irises won't bloom until April.

Knowing that was just pure luck, I diligently marked all of my new iris and allium bulbs when I planted this last October. The labels aren't attractive, so I know that those will be pulled next spring when the flowers bloom. Once again, I will lose track of my bulbs unless I have a better, but less distracting method for marking.

I thought about painting little rocks to use as bulb markers, but that's a lot of work.

Of course, it is my husband that has a great idea for marking bulbs! He suggested that we buy a bag of golf tees in mixed colors. Then, use a different color for each type of bulb. He's not even a golfer, so we don't have any around the house.

I think this is an ingenious idea. Did you know that you can buy 1,000 golf tees in mixed colors for under $25?

Are there any "green" golf tees out there?

Story by Freda Cameron

Craziest Combo: Coneflowers and Crocosmia

In one of my creative (you may disagree) moments, I decided to plant orange crocosmia with orange coneflowers. Sometimes, a gardener just has to have a little fun!

I recently begged you to Give Orange Flowers a Chance. There are two sides to using orange: funny and serious.

This combination auditioned in my butterfly garden where garish colors are planted without too much thought to design.

Most of the butterfly garden is haphazardly planted, but I intentionally placed these two orange-headed characters together.

Sort of like an old vaudeville act, the two play off each other's outlandish humor. The equally intense yellow and orange blooms of asclepias 'Gay Butterflies' joins the act a little later in the summer.

Proving that I've not totally lost my sense of reasonable color schemes, the purple verbena 'Homestead' helps a bit by toning down the colors as it crawls around the feet of coneflowers. The sprawling verbena plays another role-- that of hiding the coneflower foliage once the blooms are finished for the season. The crocosmia foliage continues to provide interest throughout the summer.

If you want to create this scene in your garden, crocosmia is suitable for full sun gardens in zones 6-9. It may be considered invasive in some areas. In my garden, I dig up the crocosmia each year and replant it in the spring so that it blooms well. The corms tend to stack one on top of the other like a chain underground.

There are a number of orange echinacea on the market that have performed with mixed results. I planted two of the patented "designer" colors in my garden, and these Echinacea Big Sky™ 'Sundown' were the only survivors. That said, they had to contend with drought during the first season of being in the garden and so I'll refrain from convicting them of poor performance since the perennials had a challenging start. Coneflowers grow well in zones 4-9.

Deer haven't bothered either the crocosmia or the coneflowers. When coneflowers emerge in the spring, they may need some protection from nibbling rabbits.

I like perennials that entertain and amuse. If the contract negotiations can be met (comedians tend to argue over who opens the show), gaillardia will be joining this orange act in the summer of 2009.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Gardener's Resolutions

While visiting the Shed Style blog of Debra Prinzing, I was impressed with her list "Seven Habits of a Highly Successful Gardener." Each habit resonated with me. I asked Debra's permission to pass along her Gardener's Resolutions story.


Please follow this link to read the details of the "Seven Habits" on Debra's blog:

Gardener’s Resolutions

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The Rain Garden in Action

Robin at Robin's Nesting Place has written about rain gardens this week. Her town in Indiana received a grant for constructing rain gardens.

We built a rain garden at our home in fall 2006 and I'm happy to report that it works well for managing heavy rains, preventing erosion, while helping the environment.

Before the slope was planted as a flower garden, we had difficulty getting grass to grow and keeping the seed or mulch in place. We also had a big problem with erosion on the slope.

Worse than that, during the first few heavy rains after our house was built, sections of our gravel driveway almost washed away.

The front section of the outer garden is bordered by a sloping meadow at the top and includes a stepping stone path at the bottom. After a heavy rain, the stepping stones and the plants at the bottom help slow down the runoff, allowing the rain to slowly seep into the soil.

At the bottom of the slope and in the dry stream, I have planted perennials, grasses and shrubs in the rain garden. These plants don't mind the occasionally wet feet and can handle the occasional drought. The plants didn't die out during the drought of 2007 while receiving minimal drip irrigation with our well water. All returned to bloom beautifully in 2008.

Japanese irisSiberian irisIris pseudocorus
Amsonia hubrichtiiAscelpias incarnataCanna
Carex Echinacea Eupatorium coelestinum Wayside
Itea virginica IlliciumLysimachia nummularia aurea
Miscanthus sinensisMonardaNepeta subsessillis
Salvia uliginosa

The next photos show where the water that flows over the stepping stone path and rain garden dumps into the dry stream. There is also an underground pipe that dumps rain water from our downspouts and water feature overflow into the "pond" section of the dry stream.

A view from above the intersection of the stone path and the pond of the dry stream shows the route of the rain runoff.

The dry stream continues along the meadow slope to route water away from the walkway, the gravel guest parking and the driveway.

At the intersection with the driveway, an underground pipe routes the water underneath the drive. On the other side, the water first flows slowly through meadow grass, then woodlands and it eventually flows downhill into a natural creek on our property.

The stones slow down the water flow to help it seep into the garden, filter the water and prevent erosion. Since the runoff drains into our natural creek, we use safe, organic products in our garden.

Rain management can be used to enhance your garden, protect your property and turn eyesores into pretty areas. The right plants produce rewarding results. It's easier to garden WITH nature -- zone, rain, drought, deer, rabbits -- instead of against nature.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron. Click photos to view larger.

Garden Flowers: The Magenta Zone

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of flowers and color but of mind; a stroll into a garden whose fences are that of imagination. That's the garden sign up ahead — your next stop, The Magenta Zone.

There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not try to adjust the color. Suspend disbelief. My garden is filled with magenta flowers.

You have come to the end of your stroll. Color is everything.

&hearts Photos by Freda Cameron. Any similarity between this story and Rod Serling's quotes is not coincidental.

Give Orange Flowers a Chance

If an orange (the fruit) is so appealing, why not orange flowers in the garden?

Are we afraid of orange because we don't know how to use it in the garden? My first negative impression was with stiff little marigolds that were planted in single file "tombstone" arrangements in my neighbor's yard when I was a kid.

When I grew up, I started planting gardens of my own. Once upon a time, I had a shade garden where orange impatiens glowed among large and small hostas and ferns. I loved the look.

I didn't think much about orange for many years until I started looking for color combinations that won't fade in full sun.

Throughout hot climates with plenty of sunshine, orange is not uncommon as a house color. Sometimes the color comes from the soil and rocks of the surrounding land. Pale to deep orange-red paints are often used on walls while blue, from pale to deep blue, is used as an accent color on trim work, doors or shutters.

If orange can look good on a house, why not in a garden?

Orange is a color that I've found to work well beside purple, gold, blue, yellow and white. I've seen stunning examples of orange used with silver or bronze foliage plants -- in gardens and in nature.

The autumn season brings on masses of gorgeous orange leaves. I enjoy the warm glow of the fall colors and go out of my way to drive around the countryside to see the best fall displays. Why not enjoy masses of orange blooms in the garden?

As for my own garden, I'm already growing a few orange plants such as coneflowers, crocosmia, roses and gaillardia. I also have the apricot agastache 'Coronado' that I'm using with the blue flowers of salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' and blue buddleia. I've moved a few gaillardia beside red monarda for this next bloom season.

When it comes to color in the garden, I'm getting bolder as I grow older!

Photos and story by Freda Cameron. Click photos to enlarge.

A Look Back at the Butterfly Garden

The butterfly garden is a mix of host and nectar plants that are attractive to butterflies. The garden was started in the fall of 2006 and expanded in the spring of 2007 and 2008.

Our garden is certified as a Monarch Waystation. In 2007, the Monarchs were plentiful, but very few showed up in 2008. According to the Monarch Watch, there were fewer Monarchs reported throughout the habitat areas in the US.

A host plant is used by female butterflies to lay eggs. The eggs hatch into caterpillars that consume the foliage of the host plant for food.

I have planted a variety of asclepias (tuberosa and incarnata) to serve as host plants for the Monarchs. The caterpillars munch the leaves of the milkweed, so I plant these in the middle of the butterfly garden among other perennials. Good nectar companion plants include verbena, vitex, hypericum, crocosmia, salvia, achillea, nepeta, agastache and monarda.

For Black Swallowtail butterflies, I have planted bronze fennel at the back of the butterfly garden. Again, since this is a host plant for caterpillars, the foliage will be eaten.

Tulip poplars (growing in the wild in our woods) are host plants for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Since there are many nectar plants from which to choose for a butterfly garden, the most difficult decision is deciding upon a color scheme.

I use my butterfly garden as an opportunity to plant swaths of bold color such as orange, gold, red and purple. I use a vitex (chaste tree), clumping bamboo and miscanthus to provide a break between some of the hot and cool colors.

It is only the color scheme that really separates my butterfly garden from my other gardens. I have nectar plants and even milkweed, throughout all of my gardens.

During the summer and fall, I look forward to each day in the garden, not only to enjoy the flowers, but in search of butterflies to identify and caterpillars to count.

For more information, please visit :

Butterflies and Moths of North America
Monarch Watch

Photos and story by Freda Cameron

Garden Plan, Garden Map or Garden Photos?

I tried to make a garden plan when I spread the soil in fall 2006 to create the outer gardens. I researched and researched the right plants for full sun, zone 7 that are deer resistant. I made list after list of perennials, shrubs, bulbs and grasses. I drew plan after plan.

What happened next? All those "perfect plants" were not available. I went to several nurseries and even ordered a few plants online. I had to make substitutions to my grand plan. By grand, I mean "large" spaces to fill.

The outer garden shown on my plan above (click to enlarge) is one section of garden that is in front of the cottage garden. This section is over 46 feet wide and 15 feet deep. It doesn't even include the side areas of the front garden just because it would be unreadable to put in more information and reduce the scale to fit a page. I doubt my measurements are exact anywhere in my drawing. I don't take a tape measure into the garden when I plant. So, my garden plan is not to scale.

This section of deer resistant garden is on a slope, too. At the top is a meadow. At the bottom is a rain garden. It's hard to draw a slope on a flat piece of paper and I'm not into the topographical elements of fine drawing. I didn't draw in the curves of the garden, so I have straight lines on this plan where there really aren't any straight lines.

My garden plan wasn't a plan for very long. Not only did I have to make substitutions, but in making substitutions, my vignettes no longer worked very well. I had to substitute new vignettes.

I planted most of this garden in 2007. The drought arrived and some of the plants didn't survive. Winter arrived and some of the plants didn't survive. My plan was starting to look less and less like a plan, so I began making corrections to it after I planted the replacements.

The deer and rabbits ate some of the deer resistant plants in my original plan, too. I've had to adjust my plans accordingly.

My garden plan, drawn in fall of 2006, morphed into more of a garden map in the fall of 2008. With a few little plans thrown in!

What you see in the drawing is now a map of existing plants with a few plans included. I have included plans for reseeding annuals of cleome and verbena bonariensis.

I sowed larkspur, but I didn't plan where, so those are just scattered somewhere around the same places as cleome and verbena. Since those have emerged, I need to update my plan-map.

For sowing in the spring, I also have nicotiana and zinnia seeds. I haven't decided where those will go, even though I bought the seeds. Seed packets are one of my weaknesses. I love the pretty pictures on the packets, so I tend to impulse buy based on the pretty pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I started playing around with using photos to document my vignettes.

The updated, drawn plan-map doesn't include my spring bulbs. Without seeing the spring bulbs, I couldn't add those to the updated map this fall.

I've forgotten exactly where the bulbs are located, although the Dutch irises are starting to reveal their locations. As my spring bulbs emerge, I'm going to add those to my plan-map. If I'm diligent and don't forget. Perhaps I'll just take a photo instead.

After all this planning and mapping, I know that I've still forgotten some of the plants. I can already see that I don't have all of the echinops on the map and I haven't divided the stachys to put on the other side of the blue buddleia. I completely forgot to add several ornamental grasses and sedges.

Is this as good as it will get for documenting the plants in my deer resistant garden? There are plants to be divided and seeds to be sown and bulbs to emerge in the spring. Will I draw those adjustments on my map?

I'm beginning to think that photos, taken of each vignette as well as long views from different angles, are worth a thousand efforts at documenting flowers in the garden. The photos succeed where my memory fails!

Photos and story by Freda Cameron


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